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August 7, 2018

Francesco Molinari

St. Louis, Missouri

THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everybody, and welcome to the 100th PGA Championship. Pleased to be joined by Francesco Molinari, 2018 Champion Golfer Of The Year. Congratulations, sir. But let's quickly talk about the PGA Championship. This is your 10th PGA Championship, and historically you've played quite well in it. Never missed a cut, and last year a tie for second place. So what is it about a PGA Championship layout that you feel that good about?

FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Yeah, it's been definitely probably until two weeks ago the best Major for me. I had my first top-10, I think, in a Major at Hazeltine in 2009 maybe. I like the country club layouts typical of the U.S. PGA. I think it puts emphasis on ball striking. Usually it's been on courses where I've putted well as well. Last year was the closest I had been to being in contention in a Major so it was a great feeling. Yeah, I'm looking forward to another good week this week, hopefully.

THE MODERATOR: So we all know what happened 2, 2 1/2 weeks ago at Carnoustie, but really, your really strong play went back further than that. Have you ever played better golf for a sustained period of time than you have right now coming in here?

FRANCESCO MOLINARI: No, well, the easy answer is no. Obviously, results are everything in sport, and it's been an amazing two months and an amazing run. Carnoustie obviously topped everything off, but already before I was super happy with winning at Wentworth and winning at Quicken Loans, two second places.

I think that the biggest thing for me was mentally to step it up a level and being able to play in my best golf week-in and week-out, and even the days where maybe the game was a little off, to make up for it with the short game and the putting. So last week wasn't easy being the first week after The Open, and energy-wise it was a bit of a struggle, but hopefully this week I can start back where I left at Carnoustie.

THE MODERATOR: Okay, questions, please.

Q. Costantino Rocca was one of many people who pointed to the fact that your putting seems to have improved out of all recognition this year, especially from around six or seven feet in. What's brought about the improvement?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: I think many times it's little things. Obviously, I've been working very hard on my putting, as I do with every other part of the game, so I think through the years I've learned a lot of things. I've improved in green reading. I've improved in many ways, and I think in the last few months I just found some technical keys that helped me to start the ball on line more consistently and to hit the sweet spot of the putter more consistently, which obviously gives me a better control of the distance.

So if you start it on line more times, you have more chances of making putts, as simple as that. I think my green reading, like I said, was good already last year or a few months ago. Where I was missing was just starting the ball on the line that I was picking when I was reading the putt.

Q. Couple of things, this course seems to be setting up as a long hitter's paradise, being so soft. Do you think that slightly dilutes the chances of players such as you compared to, say, on a links course?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: I don't know, to be honest. I don't necessarily think so. I think if I can play my A-game, if I can play as good as I want to, I can compete on most golf courses. Obviously, big hitters will have an advantage, but that was true at Carnoustie with the bunker positioning and many other things. So I think in general, major championships are a test of every part of your game, and, yeah, what we were saying about my results at the pass U.S. PGAs, the setup, I think it's been pretty consistent and my results have been pretty consistent. So hopefully I can be in contention on Sunday.

Q. Playing with Tiger the final round at Carnoustie, how did your experience help you stay in your comfort zone when he took the lead halfway through the round and the gallery was going wild and the atmosphere was probably something we haven't seen there for awhile?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Yeah, it was obviously part of the challenge, not so much playing with him but what comes with playing with him. I think, to be honest for me, it was harder to stay focused on my things on the front nine when he was making a run at it and making birdies and obviously the crowd was getting excited. So I did very well to stick to my plan to try to make pars on the front nine, and then the back nine he obviously dropped a couple of shots and I found myself in the lead.

But the biggest key was really looking at the balls but not being influenced too much by what was happening. I think, in that sense, the experience of the weeks before, winning and finishing second, helped me a lot to do what I needed to do.

Q. How has life changed for you since that magical moment?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Well, naturally it's changed a lot. There's a lot more media attention. I don't think I would be sitting here without winning at Carnoustie. So it's different, but it's part of the job, and we all work hard and strive to get here. And now it's about embracing the new challenges and trying to work as hard as possible, as well as possible to stay up where I am now and to improve even further.

Q. Do you think your A-game can compete against anyone in the world? Was there a time where you didn't think your A-game could compete against anyone in the world? And if so, what changed that? And good luck understanding that.
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: I definitely feel more comfortable playing with anyone now compared to a few years ago. I think just because I feel I'm a more complete player. I hit it a little bit longer, even though I'm not one of the big hitters, I don't feel there's as much difference as there was before. My chipping has improved a lot. My putting has improved a lot. My iron game, fortunately, has stayed the same or improved even a little bit. So it's just a matter of confidence.

I think for me the confidence comes from the work I've done in the last two, three years, recording a lot of the practices I do and seeing in the numbers that I'm getting better and better and better. So no matter what my personality thinks or my way of thinking wants me to think, I can see in the numbers that I'm getting better and better.

Q. St. Louis has a really large and traditional Italian American population. There's an area close to downtown called The Hill, where there's a lot of fine Italian dining and residences there. I'm just curious on a weekly basis do you guys get out much, get to experience the heritage, and are you looking forward to or planning on enjoying some of that here in St. Louis?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Yeah, well, first of all, I feel very fortunate, obviously, playing more and more here in the States, I can see everywhere I go the Italian American communities is massive and they support me week-in and week-out, so it's really amazing. I haven't been to downtown St. Louis yet. I'm staying close by in a house with the family and kids, so hopefully, we get the chance to go down there and have a look and experience some of the fine Italian dining.

Q. That was my question. So just a follow-up, do you need any recommendations?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Yeah, please. Yeah.

Q. So Guido's on The Hill.

Q. Charlie Gitto's, also a good one. And pretty much anywhere you go on The Hill.
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Okay. I'll give you a review by the end of the week.

Q. During The Open, someone surfaced a photo of you caddieing at the Masters for your brother in a group with Tiger. What do you remember most about that experience?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: I remember the bag being very heavy because my brother likes to carry around a lot of stuff that is not needed on the golf course really. And just the feeling of not liking being on the other side of the bag, having someone hitting the shots. Obviously, I would have much rather been playing that week, but it was an amazing experience walking two rounds alongside Tiger and just being at Augusta.

It was my first time at Augusta, I think that Tuesday when I got there, and it's a place where you dream to be when you're a kid growing up playing golf and just an amazing experience.

Q. Tiger has been an influence on pretty much every golfer in a generation. What sort of an influence has he been on you?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: I think he's changed the game for our generation. Obviously, being a teenager growing up playing golf and starting to think about maybe trying to turn professional, I think, in my generation we were all looking up to him, especially around 2000, 2001, 2002. He was doing unbelievable things. So, yeah, he's been a model and an idol for me growing up, and it's nice to see him back playing good golf, and hopefully we'll be paired together late on Sunday again this week.

Q. Prior to Carnoustie, can you remember your previous longest run of holes without a bogey? And is this something that you do quite often?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: No, it's not something really that I keep count of or anything like that. I remember obviously this year there was a quite a big fuss because I played the weekend bogey-free at Carnoustie, and then I think I was bogey-free for the first two rounds at the Italian Open. So it was -- in the end, it was something like 85 holes without a bogey or something like that, yeah.

Q. In 2 1/2 weeks you're at another major championship. First Major coming in being a Major winner. So talk about, is the mindset a little bit different knowing that you can accomplish a major championship?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: No, I don't think the mindset is any different. I know how hard I work to win at Carnoustie, and it's not going to get any easier just because you've won once. If anything, it will be probably harder because there's less time to prepare and more pressure and more expectations.

So the mindset is the same, try to make the most of all the hours of preparation I can have in the next couple of days and then just do my thing, go through the process like I did at Carnoustie, like I did at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, even without winning. I think the main thing for me is not being obsessed by results and just being obsessed by what I can control and let the results be just the end product of that.

Q. I'm interested in knowing how your country -- it might be too early to tell -- embrace golf stars as opposed to perhaps football champions? And what the reaction has been at home with your championship.
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Yeah, the reaction has been big, definitely bigger than anything before for me, bigger than Ryder Cups, so I've been really pleased with that. I haven't been back to Italy yet, so I guess I'll realize better when I go back how much it's been received and appreciated.

But, yeah, I think Italy will always be soccer, football first and then everything else. So I'm trying, obviously, to play as good as possible to help promote golf, and with the Ryder Cup coming in 2022, I think it's a great opportunity for the Federation and generally for the governing bodies to try and promote golf and bring it to more and more people. I don't think you'll ever -- it will ever become a major sport in Italy, but it will be nice to have more kids picking up the game and more people in general playing the game.

Q. A question about China. Do you remember the 2010 WGC HSBC Championship in Shanghai, and do you believe it was a key moment of your successful professional career?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Yeah, definitely it was because at the time it was my biggest win, and obviously playing the whole weekend with Lee Westwood, who had just become No. 1 in the world, it wasn't easy at all. He was playing well, and to come out on top, it was massive.

But I think golf is never straightforward, so there was kind of an up moment, and then I had a couple of -- well, more than a couple -- probably three years where things weren't that easy and I was slowly going backwards. But you need to use that as motivation to work harder and to work better, and I was lucky and good enough to turn that around and win more trophies this year.

Q. You talk about not being obsessed with results, but don't you need results for confidence and for confirmation of what you're working on?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: I can see it's a fine line, I think, for like I was telling you before, for my personality, my way of thinking, the main thing is seeing the improvement on a day-to-day basis. I'm honestly convinced that, if you go through that day by day, your results at some point will arrive. Earlier this year that was the case for me. I felt like I was playing better golf than last year and I wasn't getting the results I was hoping for.

But, yeah, myself and the team around me, we're good enough to look at things in an objective way and see maybe some little things that we could still do better but without throwing away the good work that we were doing even if the results were not coming. So like I said before, confidence for me comes more from seeing the improvement day-to-day, and then when you're out there sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn't, but the main thing is the hours you put in away from the spotlight.

Q. Do you think it was important for the Ryder Cup that you ended that run of American Major wins?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: We'll see in a few weeks. I hope so, yeah. I hope that helped not only myself obviously but everyone else who is going to be on the team. But it still doesn't change the fact that the American team is going to be one of the strongest ever and it won't be easy at all for us in Paris. But we need to get prepared and raring to go and make life hard for them on the course in Paris and play as good golf as possible. So hopefully, we can get another European winner this week and start a European streak.

Q. You touched with a hint of jocularity about your brother just now on the bag. But would you put into your own words some of the differences and similarities between you and him?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Yeah, I think we are very different in many ways. Obviously, our golf game is quite different. He's always been better at putting and at chipping in general and probably playing with a bit more flair than me. I've been always more consistent, hitting more straight shots with less shape and missing putts.


But things change through the years, and I was lucky enough to improve that. Character-wise, we're both quiet, and we enjoy to spend time with the family, and we're quite simple people, really. We don't need much to be happy. He's more of a mathematician. He loves stats and loves numbers. And I'm a bit more laid back.

THE MODERATOR: Well, thank you for your time.

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